When Emmy Blue’s father announces his plan to move his family to the mountains of Colorado, Emmy looks forward to the adventure. The Wild West sounds much more exciting than becoming a lady and learning to quilt. However, she learns that adventure also means sacrifice and hard work. After leaving friends, family, and her pet cat, Emmy starts a new life on the trail to Golden, Colorado.
On the wagon train, Emmy and her family experience hardships and strengthening experiences. They make friends and even some enemies in their journey to a new land. At the request of her grandmother, Emmy is forced to learn to quilt as she travels, but her quilting soon becomes soothing and a way to record memories. In her first children’s novel, Sandra Dallas gives a realistic and detailed view of wagon train life. She also tells an interesting story of a child finding her place in a new world.
I recommend it for 10 and up, because there is some discussion spouse abuse. Nothing is discussed in detail and it is age appropriate, but it can be a hard subject and might take a more mature reader to understand.
Recommended for ages 10 and up.
This is not a young adult novel and not fully historical fiction. However, the heroine is seventeen and this regency romance is so much more appropriate than most popular young adult fiction these days, I feel it is appropriate to include on my site.
After the death of her mother, Marianne Daventry is sent to live with her grandmother in Bath while her father takes his grieving heart to Paris. Marianne’s twin Cecily, goes to London for her debut in society and to search out the gentleman she intends to marry. Eventually, both sisters are invited to Edenbrooke, the estate of their mother’s friend, Lady Catherine. While in route to Edenbrooke, Marianne encounters a mysterious and flirtatious gentleman who both intrigues and angers her. He turns out to be Sir Philip, the son of Lady Catherine.
Trouble ensues as Marianne becomes friends with Philip, but learns he is the same man her sister intends to marry. Patterned after the manner of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, Edenbrooke is perfect for Regency period readers. It doesn’t have the same level of wit or writing as Jane Austen, but it captures the feeling of that time period and a classic, clean romance.
Recommended for ages 13 and up.
Joseph Michtom lives in Brooklyn with his family during the summer of 1903. His only wish is to visit the new amusement park at Coney Island, but his family is too busy. As Russian immigrants, Joseph’s family struggled with the others until his father sold the first stuffed toy bear. Now the family can’t keep up with the demand for toy bears and Joseph feels his childhood being sucked away by their good fortune.
Through the eyes of Joseph Michtom with some inserted insight from orphans living under the bridge, Karen Hesse brings turn of the century Brooklyn to life. She shows the joys and struggles of that period in history. It is through the experience of the Michtom family and Joseph’s own coming of age, that we see the culture and people of a growing and advancing America. Brooklyn Bridge brings a tween’s perspective of this period of American history.
Recommended for ages—9-12.
Melkorka is an Irish princess living a privileged life in medieval Ireland. When she and her young sister are kidnapped by a Russian slave ship, Melkorka is plunged into the unfamiliar struggles of poverty and servitude. In her grief, she takes a vow of silence, but soon learns her silence is the key to survival. Her captors and masters are fascinated by her silence, giving her more power than a typical slave.
Hush is the story of Melkorka’s journey from a royal home in Ireland, through medieval Europe, to find her place among the Vikings of Iceland. Her journey gives insight into the slave trade and Viking culture. It is a painful and realistic story of a young girl pulled away from everything she knows. The writing is well-researched and developed, and it doesn’t avoid the harshness of a hard life. The story is engaging, but not for readers expecting ‘happily ever after.’
Recommended for ages—13 and up.
Esperanza enjoys an indulged life on her family’s ranch in Aguascalientes, Mexico. Surrounded by wealth and loving family, she has little understanding of the servants and ranch hands around her. An unexpected tragedy robs Esperanza of her comfort and forces her and her Mama to flee to California. There they settle in a camp for migrant farm workers and are forced to endure the hard physical labor and financial struggles of their new position.
In a new land and a new life, Esperanza finds nothing familiar. She struggles to fulfill her required tasks in the midst of personal sorrow. While her new situation is hard, Esperanza learns valuable lessons. She learns about the importance of friendship and compassion as well as the strength that comes from facing and overcoming challenges. Her story is a powerful illustration of life as a migrant worker during the Great Depression.
Although Esperanza Rising, describes difficult circumstances, it leaves readers with a sense of hope in the strength of the human spirit.
Recommended for ages—9-12 years.
In late winter 1858, Early Whitcomb and his family were struggling to save their farm. After a dry year and poor harvest, their savings were barely enough to pay the mortgage. Threats from the bank were becoming more severe and financial ruin seemed inevitable. About this time, the farmers began to hear rumors of gold found out West at Pike’s Peak. Early’s Uncle Jesse is caught up in the gold fever and is sure that digging for gold will solve all their problems.
When Jesse disappears, Early joins a wagon train to follow his uncle and join the rush for gold. This I Witness book gives a realistic look at the culture and struggles of emigrants and gold diggers in the Old West. Avi includes illustrations and photographs that help teach history as well as share an intriguing story.
Stosh has the unique ability to travel through time using only a baseball card. He holds a card from the year he wants to visit, and suddenly he is there. In Roberto & Me, Stosh travels to 1969 to meet baseball star and humanitarian Roberto Clemente. His goal is to warn Roberto not to take the tragic plane flight that cut his life so short. However, Stosh soon learns changing the future is more difficult than he expected.
This book and the other baseball card adventure books are great for young sports enthusiasts. They include baseball facts, but also a glimpse of life in different time periods. The stories are written with enough variety and conflict that even non-baseball lovers can enjoy them. Roberto & Me was a success with my ten-year-old daughter who has never watched a game of baseball in her life.
Recommended for ages 8-12
Tess’s life has been ruled by her violin. While she loves the music, she suffers from the pressures placed on all child prodigies. After a crushing failure in her first performance as a soloist, Tess retreats from New York to spend the summer with her father in Montana.
Intertwined with Tess’s story, is the story of Frederick. He is a teenaged homesteader trying to make ends meet in turn of the century Montana. Jeanette Ingold skillfully jumps between the stories of these two young people with similar struggles in vastly different time periods and life styles. Through their experiences, she shows the joy and heartache of finding one’s place in the world and taking on the responsibilities of life. Ingold provides a realistic view of both homesteader life and the struggles of a truly talented musician.
Recommended for ages 12 and up.
I was immediately captivated by the title Al Capone Does My Shirts. However, while the title is an excellent fit for the story, it led me to expect an entirely different type of book. I expected kids mixed up with gangsters or some other sort of hilarity. Instead, Al Capone Does My Shirts is a much deeper and more profound work of historical fiction placed against the backdrop of the Depression and Alcatraz. This book was assigned to my ten-year-old daughter and I think she can appreciate it, but readers of her age would need a background on Alcatraz, Al Capone, and the culture of the time period.
Moose Flanigan and his family move to the island of Alcatraz where his father works double shifts as an electrician and prison guard. They make the move in an attempt to earn enough to send his mentally handicapped sister Natalie to a special school in San Francisco. When that plan fails, Moose is overwhelmed with the responsibility of watching his sister. At the same time, he struggles to make new friends and avoid involvement in the troublesome schemes of the prison warden’s daughter.
Al Capone Does My Shirts is an interesting story based on the lives of families who lived and worked on Alcatraz during its operation. It also deals with the trials of mental disabilities and the way it affects families. The book is written with compassion, sensitivity and great insight, but would be a good one to discuss with young readers as they read.
Recommended for ages 10 and up.
I didn’t have high expectations when I started this book, but I was pleasantly surprised. It was one of the better crafted stories I have read in a while, with action as well as depth and meaning. Solveig is the middle daughter of a Nordic king and considers herself without value to her father. She, her older sister, and younger brother are sent to a freezing fortress at the base of a glacier to be kept safe during a war with a neighboring nobleman.
Trapped for the winter with only a few servants, restless warriors, and a dwindling food supply, Solveig finds herself struggling to keep peace in their camp. When acts of treachery begin to surface, the peace is threatened even more. Solveig finds hidden talents as she trains with the king’s skald, or storyteller. She learns the power of words to soothe heartache, engender courage, and even save lives.
Although this story of a young girl is set in an ancient, frozen landscape, Solveig’s story resonates with youth of all ages and circumstances who are searching for their own place in life. The action is captivating, but the life lessons are powerful for youth of all ages.
Recommended for ages 10 and up